The National, O2 Arena, review: The connection is immediate despite the large capacity venue

This is the National’s triumph: lovers' lyrics built around personal insecurities that, when performed to the masses, strike a note with everyone

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The Independent Culture

Creating masterpieces almost by stealth, The National have steadily risen, album by album, from a cramped London dive to a roaring London arena.

Bright displays at their back – splinters of glass, Christmas baubles, myriads of colour - the five native Ohioans who now call Brooklyn home work with Sufjan Stevens through a staggering array of material that reaches right back to 2004 LP Cherry Tree.

With his baritone weighted down by melancholia, Berninger holds onto his mic as though it might abandon him, moving from self-deprecating futility to magnificent symbolism in a moment. 

Tracks that should be perfect for staring sullenly through a rain-stricken window suddenly seem energetic when performed live despite their resignation, and lines stand out on their own: the forlorn ‘Pink Rabbits’ with ‘I didn’t ask for this pain/It just came over me’ is so resonant you can almost hear the catch in the audience’s throats.

It’s quite something to see that: a 20,000 capacity venue, almost filled to the brim, overwhelmed by an immediate, intimate connection with these agonised moans.

This is the National’s triumph: lovers' lyrics built around personal insecurities that, when performed to the masses, strike a note with everyone.

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